Who do you represent when you write and speak? Even talking about yourself cannot be confined to your life, because people draw meaning from your lived experience in ways that are out of your control. This is the trade-off for listening. When you write, you filter reality. When you speak, you become a proxy for your ‘kind.’ It is natural to process the world through learnt cues.
When you are in a position of authority, what you say and do becomes ‘truth.’ Academics are in the business of making truth. There is much hubris involved in dedicating our lives to becoming the voice for the voiceless. During the colonial days, anthropologists were enlisted to unravel the mysteries behind the ‘exotic’ subjects in occupied regions of the world and filter these understandings in ways palatable to the domestic public. Centuries later, mysteries continue to pervade about much of the underprivileged and unattended world.
A well-meaning academic faces numerous obstacles when undertaking this responsibility of representation today. The academic norm is Western, white and masculine. To deviate from this demands an explanation. You may be asked whether your scholarship is an ‘area studies’ endeavour that may pigeonhole your scholarship within the boundaries of that chosen group and region. Will your research globalise the norm and thereby serve as an instrument to scale best practices? Is your work intended to create reflection by challenging popular worldviews, possibly creating a new norm? For the complete article, click here.